Three reasons Californians won’t want to miss Biden’s State of the Union

President Biden
President Biden delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol on March 1, 2022, in Washington.
(Saul Loeb / Associated Press)

President Biden delivers his annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday evening.

For politically engaged audiences, it’s an opportunity to hear the president lay out his accomplishments and priorities.

For others less interested in hearing what the president has to say, the speech could still be worth watching, particularly for Californians.

Here are three things to look for:


Alhambra hero Brandon Tsay will be the president’s guest

Tsay, the 26-year-old hero who disarmed a gunman at Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio in Alhambra, will attend the State of the Union as a guest of the president. He was also invited to the event by Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), his congresswoman.


“He saved so many lives,” Chu said. “In fact, I really, truly believe that double the amount of deaths would have occurred had he not [intervened].”

Tsay is expected to be seated in First Lady Jill Biden’s viewing box and probably singled out by the president for his actions.

If so, expect an outpouring of bipartisan support and applause — perhaps one of the few during the speech — for Tsay.

Intel CEO Patrick “Pat” Gelsinger of Santa Clara, Calif., was in the first lady’s box last year.


Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s sits behind Biden for first time

McCarthy will sit beside Vice President Kamala Harris on the dais at the State of the Union, often appearing in television shots with the two Democratic leaders.


After barely convincing the right flank of his party to give him the speaker’s gavel, McCarthy’s interactions and responses will be interesting to watch.

His predecessor Nancy Pelosi drew considerable attention from that perch during the Trump administration, visibly shaking her head at his comments, sarcastically applauding and once ripping up a copy of President Trump’s speech after he concluded.

“I’m going to make a prediction right now,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said in an interview. “Unlike Nancy Pelosi, I am confident Kevin McCarthy will not petulantly rip Joe Biden’s speech into pieces from the dais.”

But in an era when bipartisanship has become a dirty word, McCarthy may need to avoid seeming too cozy with Biden and Harris, or risk a backlash from his right flank.

When McCarthy formally invited Biden to deliver the address, he described it as his “solemn obligation.”


“He cannot be seen as fearful of the president,” said Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), chair of the Republican Study Committee. “It’s a fine balance.”

Cruz acknowledged that State of the Union speeches “are always large part theater” and said he finds amusement in watching how lawmakers decide whether to stand or applaud over the most anodyne statements, “statements that any rational person who was conscious would agree with and yet half the Congress won’t applaud because of the inevitable partisanship.”

He said, “for a lot of Republicans, especially Republican House members, McCarthy will set an example of when to applaud and stand.”

McCarthy may also need to deal with outbursts or heckling from lawmakers, which have become increasingly common during State of the Union addresses.

Last year conservative Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado heckling Biden during his address; Democratic women wore suffragette white and chanted “USA” during one of Trump’s speeches; GOP Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouted “You lie!” when President Obama said his healthcare reforms would not cover immigrants in the U.S. illegally.


Pelosi’s new seat away from the dais

Pelosi will be unbound from the responsibility of having to sit behind the president for the duration of his address, which may make her movements all the more interesting.

As speaker, Pelosi’s taunts went viral during the last administration. Now the Democratic speaker emerita will occupy a new seat in the crowd, one that’s away from the primary spotlight but still within view of reporters and photographers, who can capture potentially memorable moments that never appear on screen for viewers.

At the same time, Pelosi will probably want to avoid overshadowing her successor, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).